Catholic Summary of Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg

BJ Fogg is the director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University. 

Click here for his free online week-long program that teaches you how to pick small goals and then support you as you work toward them using scientifically-sound, behavior change principles. 

Here are 3 “Catholic” summary points of his book:

#1: Pick tiny habits

A tiny habit is a small, simple and easy version of the desired habit you wish to form. 

  • “A ‘Tiny Habit’ is a behavior — you do at least once a day that takes you less than 30 seconds that requires little effort” (BJ Fogg).

Examples:

  • Say 1 Hail Mary
  • Drop by an adoration chapel for 1 minute
  • Thank God for 1 thing
  • Read 1 sentence from the Bible
  • Open up a spiritual reading book
  • Kneel down once and make the sign of the Cross
  • Floss 1 tooth
  • Do 1 pushup
  • Put on your gym clothes
  • Stretch 1 body part
  • Clean up 1 item in your room
  • Drink 1 sip of water
  • Eat 1 piece of fresh fruit
  • Read 1 sentence of a book
  • Say hi to 1 person
  • Smile once
  • Laugh once
  • Hug 1 person

Click here for more ideas from Stephen Guise’s mini habits list.

Q. What happens when you want to do more? 
  • “It’s a good sign that you want to do more than the tiny behavior. So feel happy about that. You can do more when you want to do more. Yes, floss all your teeth, for example. However, do not raise the bar on yourself. Don’t think you must keep making the behavior bigger and bigger. If you raise the bar, then you fall into the trap of the old, ineffective way to create habits… If you do more than the tiny behavior, be sure it’s not painful or hassles. You don’t want your brain associating the new habit with pain or frustration. If it does hurt, like doing lots of push-ups, be sure to celebrate hard to counteract the negative effects of pain on your brain. And as you do more, think to yourself, ‘I’m awesome. I’m getting extra credit.’” (BJ Fogg).

#2: Choose Specific Triggers

The power of tiny habits is that they rely upon triggers (existing habits) rather than on motivation or willpower – praise God for that!

After I [existing habit], I will [new tiny behaviour].

Morning Examples:

  • After I get out of the shower, I will thank God for the new day.
  • After I start my morning coffee, I will read today’s Gospel. 
  • After I finish my coffee, I will take my vitamin.
  • After I walk out of my front door for the day, I will say ‘Jesus has great plans for me today.’
  • “If you use an existing behavior in your life and you put the new tiny behavior after it you can use the existing behavior to be the trigger.  Your triggers are existing behaviors.  Just establish what it will come after” (BJ Fogg).

Night Examples:

  • After I get home, I will set out my workout clothes. 
  • After I finish dinner, I will read today’s Gospel. 
  • After I put my kids in bed, I will tell them ‘goodnight, I love you, sweet dreams’.
  • After I take off my clothes at night, I will put them away.
  • After my head hits the pillow, I will thank God for something I am grateful for.
  • “So I encourage you to look at your lives.  Look at what you want to change.  Break it down to tiny behaviors and put them in the right spot.
    The right spot is after something you’re already doing and, allow it to grow.  You don’t have to amp up motivation.  You don’t have to draw that much on willpower.  All you have to do is plan it out and let this natural process emerge” (BJ Fogg).

#3: Celebrate Tiny Successes

After you do the tiny behaviour that you want to repeat, or expand in the future, you celebrate the victory – immediately!

  • “Celebrate on the spot, either while you’re doing the tiny behavior or within a second of completing it” (BJ Fogg).

Find a celebration that works for you from the following examples:

  1. Physical movement: Thumbs up, fist pump, victory sign, give yourself a hi-five, clap once, smile, laugh, stamp feet, pat yourself on the back, do a wink and smile, smile at yourself in the mirror, finger snap and thumbs up.
  2. Physical movement that flows: A short victory dance, a goofy little jig, applaud.
  3. Say a word or phrase out loud: “awesome!”, “bingo!”, “yay, me!”, “good job!” “Praise the Lord!” “Thank you Jesus!” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
  4. Say a word or phrase inside, to yourself: “nicely done!”, “nailed it”, “way to go.”
  5. Sing a song phrase out loud or inside, to yourself: “Good morning, sunshine…”, “Praise the Lord for He is good…”
  6. Vocalize music or a sound effect out loud: “Do do do dooooo!” (trumpet for royalty).
  7. Imagine hearing music or sound effect: Picture the saints and angels applauding your success.
  8. Feel an internal glow inside yourself: Conjure up a feeling of success and happiness.

Click here for a link to a free PDF that includes 102 tiny habit celebrations.

Combination examples:

  • Say “Praise the Lord!” and smile as you do the sign of the Cross.
  • Say “Thanks be to God!” and picture the saints and angels around you cheering you on as you lift your hands up to God.
  • Genuflect and say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” with a big smile.
  • “When you do a behavior and feel a positive emotion about it, your brain pays attention. It essentially thinks, ‘Wow, that felt good. I want to do that behavior again!’ I can summarize my research here in three words: ‘Emotions create habits.’ The stronger the emotion, the more deeply your brain rewires” (BJ Fogg).

Summary:

Tiny habits are like little plots of rich soil that allow God’s grace to sink deeply and bear abundant fruit in the future. Trust that this “tiny way” of holiness is a powerful way to cooperate with God’s desire to bring you to the heights of holiness.

  • “When you know how to create tiny habits, you can change your life forever” (BJ Fogg).

Comments

  1. Great review. I like your habits you selected. and how you used the garden analogy. Fogg is coming out with a new book: Tiny Habits. Check it out!

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